Starting Points creating Fatherhood Initiative, expanding Paw Paw services

by Kate Evans

Morgan County Starting Points has received an extended $250,000 grant from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Service which will allow them to establish a Fatherhood Initiative. Programs and activities will be targeted to help strengthen the bonds between fathers and their children. The funding will also allow the agency to expand their programming in Paw Paw.

Fathers want to be involved in their children’s lives, said Starting Points Executive Director Audrey Morris. A father’s involvement in his children’s lives is critical for their health and well-being, That engagement positively affects both a mother’s and a father’s health outcomes and well-being if they are both involved with parenting, she said.

Fathers include biological, social, resident and nonresident fathers along with stepfathers.  All could be served in the fatherhood program.

A lifetime of connections

Programs, services and activities geared toward fathers and their children could raise fathers’ involvement from their child’s infancy through their youth.  That could help prevent births with low weight and very low weight, preterm births and growth issues.

A father’s involvement early on in a child’s life impacts cognitive and linguistic skills and school performance throughout childhood and into adolescence, Morris said.

A father’s involvement “can help improve children’s social emotional involvement, reduce risk-taking behaviors and increase the likelihood of children graduating from high school,” Morris stressed.

Morris said that they plan to hire a father part-time to facilitate the fatherhood initiative.  The program will reach out to other organizations and agencies that serve or have contact with fathers and places where men congregate.

Social media will also be used to find fathers in need of services and engagement.

“Staff will promote the message that fathers are not alone in parenting,” Morris said.

The Fatherhood Initiative

Morris said the fatherhood program will use the model of the National Fatherhood Initiative championing fatherhood.

Programs and activities will include support groups, educational opportunities and fun activities for dads and kids, like bowling day or fishing with dad.

Starting Points will   establish the need for the program, hire a father as a  program coordinator/facilitator to work with Morris to implement the program, determine the type of fathers they want involved in the program, choose fatherhood skill-building materials that best serve the target population  and start to provide services.

Starting Points is reviewing different curriculum to review and plans a marketing campaign to impress upon dad’s how important their relationship is to their children, she said.

Community partners such as other agencies and churches will help with recruitment.

Morris said they are excited about the new opportunity to work with dads. It’s something Starting Points has been exploring the past few years.  Helping fathers create better relationships with their children and understand all the reasons for being involved in their children’s lives is crucial to children’s success.

Morris hopes to have someone hired and trained and the program up and running by fall.

Paw Paw

Morris said that Starting Points is looking to expand their programs in Paw Paw with a physical site location there maybe two days a week.

Having an office in Paw Paw would allow them to bring their baby pantry items there and provide additional services.  They also have a program coordinator that teaches parenting and life skills.

Morris said she’s working on finding a location for Starting Points in Paw Paw.

The group regularly meets at the Paw Paw Park for Fun Fridays — for science and art projects – and also holds nutrition classes throughout the year.